Thank god for editors

Editors are the best. I don’t say that because I am one (though I am), I say that because editors exist to make your work better — and if you write, don’t you want your work to be better? Too many aspiring writers resist the idea of letting someone else touch their words. It’s tampering; it’s an insult; the words are pure and perfect and blah blah farking blah.


If you write, nine times out of ten a good editor will make your work better. You don’t need a pat on the back from friends and family. You don’t need blind praise. You don’t need relentless criticism. You need someone to massage your work; to bring out the good; suppress the bad; and just plain make it shine. And by god, if you’re going to write you’d BETTER be ready to embrace the process, because your words are NOT sacrosanct.

I recently got the post-editing draft of Stuff Every Husband Should Know back from my editor, Hugo award-winning editor Stephen Segal, and the result is a better manuscript than I initially submitted. I liked the submitted draft just fine, but this one is ready for prime time. It’s tighter, leaner, and cleaner. It’s still me through and through, but it’s me after a shower and shave rather than after a weekend binge of beer and cigars.

That’s what good editors do.

Your words aren’t sacred. Never have been. Never will be. Editors exist for a reason. And writers should be thankful for that.


  1. M.T. Carpenter, Sr.

    Billions and billions of movies suffer from this same issue. They want to be writer, producer, director, cook, chief bottle washer, and critic of the same movie. It hurts the creative process. It's my opinion that that is what happened with "The Last Airbender". M. Night Shamalamadingdong isn't a bad director in my opinion, but to take on all those roles at the same time in the same movie kills it a la George Lucas and the prequels. There are no checks and balances. Just a lot of "Oh yes George – that's wonderful!" and "That is perfect Shamalama! You did such a good job!" from everyone under them.

    And you're right on about family and friends. It's nice that they like what you do, but in the end, a pro is going to give you the truth. The challenge is to be professional enough to take the criticism and do something with it as opposed to whining that they didn't like this or that about your art, script, etc.

    Ok, I'm done.

  2. inannasstar

    "It's tighter, leaner, and cleaner. It's still me through and through, but it's me after a shower and shave rather than after a weekend binge of beer and cigars."

    I was thinking while I was reading your post that a good editor seems akin to getting a makeover. No they're not going to take away my big ass and frizzy hair, but they'll dress me in something flattering and defrizzify me.

    I can't wait to read this book.

  3. admin

    M.T.: Absolutely right on all counts.It's nice to have total control of a creative project, but the fact is we all benefit from a good, objective, smart set of outside eyes or ears. Those outside factors make us *better* at what we do. Sometimes it's a bit painful, especially when you're starting out and the ego is still fragile. It's easy to get bruised. But ultimately that criticism or guidance is by FAR more helpful than praise for its own sake.

    Domestic One: Good analogy! Yeah, I'd say a good editor can do exactly that.

    And a *really* good editor will make you think it's your idea, too. I worked with this same editor once before on a piece for Weird Tales magazine, and he gave me a nudge that vastly improved the piece I submitted.

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